As the UK Government prepares to hand the COP Presidency over to Egypt at COP27 in November, Glasgow Convention Bureau has been looking at how Scotland’s largest city has benefited from hosting the prestigious UN Conference on Climate Change 12 months ago. And Glasgow Convention Bureau says that hosting COP26 has indeed delivered a lasting legacy for the Scottish city’s business tourism Sector as Egypt prepares to pick up the COP27 baton

While governments around the world focus on delivering the four goals outlined in the Glasgow Climate Pact – turning the momentum from the globally significant conference into action – the city’s conventions team has been working to identify the lasting legacy of COP26.

Feedback from Glasgow’s tourism and conventions sector, as evidenced in the Bureau’s 2022 Business Survey, found that more than half (60 per cent) of city tourism businesses improved their sustainability credentials as a result of COP26, with a particular focus on reducing food waste and lowering energy consumption. Additionally, the majority of respondents (more than 70 per cent) said that hosting COP26 raised their awareness of climate change.

Janice Fisher, co-chair of the Greater Glasgow Hoteliers Association (GGHA), said: “The city’s hotel community understood the need to clearly communicate our green credentials and sustainable practices to the COP26 delegates, and we have taken these learnings forward to support future conferences meeting in our city. Over the last year, Glasgow’s hotels have increased their number of electric vehicle charging points, worked on removing single-use plastic, and we have been encouraging all GGHA members to apply for Green Tourism accreditation as best practice.”

Gordon Hodge, Head of Conferencing and Events at the University of Strathclyde, said: “The University is committed to reducing emissions by 70 per cent by 2025. We’ve developed a sustainability webpage to help organisers and delegates make more sustainable choices, and our conference apps reduce the need for printed materials. Standardised buffet options have streamlined our kitchen operations, reducing waste and energy consumption while maintaining quality and value. We’ve completely removed red meat from our menus, and any single-use items are now compostable. We’re delighted that our efforts have been recognised, just this month, with a Green Meetings Gold Award to add to our Green Tourism Gold status.” 

Prior to COP26, Glasgow was already a driving force as a sustainable conference city, being the first in the UK to join the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDSI) in 2016 and ranking in the top five destinations (4th) worldwide by 2022.

In 2021, Glasgow was the first UK city to partner with EarthCheck, the sustainable city benchmarking tool, as well as the first Convention Bureau to join Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency.

Aileen Crawford, Head of Tourism and Conventions at Glasgow Life, which operates Glasgow Convention Bureau, said: “Hosting COP26 has helped to build on Glasgow’s ‘People Make Glasgow Greener’ story, where the city has gone ‘from steam to green’. Energy and low-carbon conferences are regularly in our top three subject areas alongside medical and engineering meetings. This trend is set to continue with over £16m of energy-related conference business secured for Glasgow through to March 2024; further strengthening the city’s, and Scotland’s, position as a sustainable conference location for responsible conference organisers.”

People Make Glasgow Greener is an ongoing campaign led by Glasgow Convention Bureau, which was launched ahead of the city’s hosting of COP26 and reflects Glasgow’s commitment to becoming one of the world’s leading sustainable tourism destinations.

It reflects Glasgow’s iconic and award-winning ‘People Make Glasgow’ city brand. Earlier this year, Glasgow City Council published the results of its annual 2022 Glasgow Household Survey, which showed that 40 per cent of citizens who responded felt COP26 had a positive impact on the city, while 72 per cent felt it had raised Glasgow’s profile internationally. Additionally, some 66 per cent said it had boosted Glasgow’s reputation for staging major events, while 60 per cent said it had encouraged them to think about the environment more.

Around a third felt it had a positive impact on the local economy and had encouraged them to change their behaviour to help deal with the climate emergency, while around a quarter of respondents said they had been encouraged to take environmental action because of COP26.

Dr Marie Whaley, Senior Vice President, International Water Association (IWA), said: “IWA is delighted to be able to partner with a city and venue that has sustainability at the very heart of its operations, by bringing the 2026 IWA World Water Congress and Exhibition to Glasgow.

“It’s critical for us, as an organisation which champions the implementation of sustainable water policies worldwide, to be able to work with local stakeholders who can align with our strategic sustainable principles and amplify our vision to create a world in which water is wisely, sustainably and equitably managed.

“We are thrilled to be bringing our flagship event to the SEC Glasgow in 2026 and are confident Glasgow provides the ideal backdrop to foster relationships and drive discussions which support the global community in transitioning to sustainable water solutions that are robust and flexible in the face of global change pressures.”

Egypt’s hosting of COP27 next month marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In that time the world has come a long way in the fight against climate change and its negative impacts on our planet, but Glasgow’s tourism and conventions industry recognises there’s more to do and that business events have a significant role to play. 

Kathleen Warden, Director of Conference Sales at the Scottish Event Campus, said: “COP26 has had a transformative effect on our business and has accelerated our sustainability ambitions. It was the catalyst for our commitment to being net zero by 2030, and importantly, it has been the driver for the creation of the Net-Zero-Carbon-Events initiative that is shaping the events industry for a more sustainable future worldwide.

“It has also impacted the perception of our business and Glasgow on a global stage, cementing our rightful reputation as a truly global city capable of staging the largest and most complex of events, and it has elevated Scotland’s profile as a country that is committed to a greener future.

“As the host venue we’re forever part of the COP story, and the SEC and Glasgow’s legacy will always be remembered. It’s been a privilege to be part of the city’s COP26 journey and the SEC is thrilled to continue to contribute to and lead the industry to a more sustainable future.”